Until Dawn – Review
Until Dawn is the highly acclaimed interactive horror title from Supermassive Games that follows the story of a group of teenagers being stalked by a sadistic psychopath with a vendetta. Or so it seems. The story takes many twists and turns along the way, and without giving too much away, let’s just say that the most immediate threat is not always the one to be feared.
The game opens on with a group of 10 friends hanging out in a ski lodge on their annual winter getaway, throwing back brewskies and pranking one of their (I suppose) lesser liked friends, Hannah. When it goes wrong, Hannah runs from the lodge with her sister, Beth, chasing after her to ensure her safety. Beth fails and the two of them run off a cliff and fall to their deaths… and that’s the opening of the game.
The real action starts a year later, when the surviving eight friends return to the lodge for the annual getaway; organised by Josh, the brother of dead twins Hannah and Beth. It is here that we really gain an insight into who the characters are; what makes them tick, who they like and most importantly, who they hate. It’s also where we, as the gamer and higher power, begin to form our own opinions on our cast of minions, and learn all about the underlying theme of the game; the butterfly effect.
The butterfly effect, for those that don’t know, is the theory that one seemingly meaningless decision can have a variety of consequences down the track. This theory is employed by Until Dawn throughout the whole game, with all of your decisions being tracked so you can see how each one has affected the course of the story. Even the most simple of choices, like choosing to do nothing, has an impact on the story when you least expect it to, and thus (and I quote) “Boom. Butterfly effect.”
Each character has a few scenarios attributed to them where you get to make choices that will ultimately doom them, or save them. Going into the title I was sure I wanted to keep all of the characters alive but as I got closer to them and better acquainted with their personalities, there were few I found I actually cared about. Sam (voiced by Hayden Panettiere) was a favourite character of mine, being the most down to earth and relatable, whilst creepy Josh and annoying as all hell Emily were two characters I didn’t give a crap about, and so when it came time to try or die with those two, I most definitely did not try.
There were times throughout the game that I found myself almost dooming a character, or making a poor choice, simply because of the clunky control system. For some reason making a split second choice is done through the movement of the right analog stick to the corresponding option- something which I intuitively go to do with the left analog stick. It’s not a huge inconvenience but every single time I had to make a choice, my left thumb twitched because that’s the control system I have been trained to use and Until Dawn fragrantly turns that around on us for no apparent reason.
Something Until Dawn does very well however, is jump scares, or what the game calls “cheap shots”. There were quite a few times where these had me jumping out of my skin, and lucky for me, this was all recorded through my Playstation Eye camera. If you have one of these connected, Until Dawn will record all of these cheap shots for you so you can look back at yourself and laugh. Or, in my case, so your friends can look back on you and laugh. It was a cool novelty at first but it soon came to the point where you could spot the formula they used and come to expect them. None were ever as scary as the very first one- but it’s something that throws a jump into you and gets the heart rate pumping if nothing more.
Jump scares aside, the game is truly creepy in the beginning. It does a really good job of building suspense, and I spent a lot of time trying to angle the camera to look around corners before walking around them to avoid being scared out of my wits. As it goes on the eerie atmosphere subsides, and the game veers towards the supernatural and becomes almost silly. I found myself getting less and less scared and just wishing I had the option to start punching stuff as a way to get through the story.
I came into Until Dawn expecting a cheesy teenage horror flick I could interact with, and that’s exactly what I got… I also got the crap scared out of me, numerous times, but we don’t talk about that. Despite its flaws, this game was enjoyable, and yes, somewhat terrifying in places, but now that I know all the scary bits I can see myself going back into it with a lot more confidence. There’s definite replayability here with all the different choices made available to you, and a bunch of collectibles if you’re into the completionist side of things. My only advice for those thinking of picking up Until Dawn is this: sometimes doing nothing is as powerful as doing something… and kill Emily for she is a bitch.